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City workers agree to four-year contract

A year after the last collective agreement expired, the City of Kelowna has reached a deal with the majority of its workers. But it took the help of a mediator to settle the contract.

The new four-year agreement, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, will run to Dec. 31, 2013.

The 615 full-time, part-time and casual members of CUPE 338 will receive a 1.25 per cent increase in for 2010 and the same this year, plus 1.5 per cent more in both 2012 and 2013. “The city feels the agreement is fair to employees considering the current economic climate, length of the agreement and relative to other public sector collective agreements,” said Paul Macklem, Kelowna’s general manager of corporate sustainability.

“On balance, the four-year agreement ensures continuity of service to our citizens for an extended period of time within the city’s current budget.”

This year’s city budget will include a 2.05 per cent hike in the municipal portion of property taxes.

Union members ratified the new collective agreement on Sunday and city council approved the deal during its closed door meeting Monday morning, said Mayor Sharon Shepherd.

She said she was happy to see the deal done because it will give the city three years of labour certainty.

“Although negotiations were a struggle, CUPE believes the agreement reflects fairness for the workers who provide a variety of core services that the citizens of Kelowna rely on,” said CUPE Local 338 president Brent Soroka.

According to Macklem, the main sticking point was money.

After a year of on-again, off-again negotiations, both sides agreed to call in a mediator and after just two days of mediation, the deal was done.

While most of the city’s employees are members of CUPE local 338, Kelowna also has separate collective agreements with the union representing its firefighters, and a separate CUPE local representing its airport workers, the union representing its electricians and the association representing its management staff.

Negotiations with its firefighters are set to start Feb. 1. That contract expired March 31, 2010.

Negotiations with the airport workers is also slated to start soon, said Macklem.

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